Opinion: Biased scales


It’s a flaw of human nature that we so little imagine our beliefs to be misplaced that when they are we react with nothing short of astonishment. In this ongoing game of listing the best of everything – best city, best restaurant, best college, best deodorant – we indulge the opining of the progenitors of these entirely subjective and unscientific directories with the bully pulpit. Often, the commentator finds themselves domiciled in some coastal town, megatropolis, or enclave of their fellow elites and are confronted with a result to their research that shows a Midwestern town, backwater restaurant, non-ivy college, or even drugstore-variety deodorant to have earned a spot.

“You won’t believe it,” they declare, “but this Indiana community beat out many others!”  Wow, are they truly so shocked to imagine that Hoosiers care enough to live, eat and learn well – plus exude pleasant odor? Or are they exposing their own prejudice, systemic even, that reminds us all of us that they are in charge of good taste? Never one to shy away from confirmation bias, U.S. News & World Report issued its money-making list of so-called best universities.  It ranked Indiana’s own Wabash College as an “A+ school for B students.” Is that a compliment? True, Wabash doesn’t cut corners on quality education, nor does it garner the piles of applications of the more famous schools.

Is the restaurant’s greatness determined by the quality of the food, the celebrity of the clientele, the length of the waiting list, or the blessing of the right reviewer? “How can this be a good meal if it is affordable, can be obtained, and, most importantly, didn’t come from us?” Do they overconfidently overlook the quality of their competition? Accessibility does not have to affect outcome. Wabash College proves it. So, does inaccessibility guarantee quality? It seems unlikely.